I won’t lie to you – I used to be a sugar fiend. How many of you grew up eating sugary candies, yeast breads and rolls, and plentiful amounts of ice cream? Who can forget all the Oreos and Little Debbie snack cakes along the way? I don’t know about you, but those foods comprised some of the best parts of my childhood when it came to food. Sadly, these foods also caused a nasty sugar addiction that took me almost sixteen years to break. No, it wasn’t easy, but after a month of no sugar, I never wanted a taste of the white stuff again, and I even found my battle with depression for the past two years had basically disappeared (along with a nasty binging habit). Though the smell and look of a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies or chocolate peanut butter candies will always be tempting, I’ll never forget how much better I feel without sugar in my life.
What’s So Bad About Sugar?
Refined and added sugar is a leading cause of inflammation, can lead to cancer cell growth, diabetes, depression, and many other health issues. It causes food addictions, acne, mood disorders, and more. The sad part is, sugar hides in EVERYTHING. Sugar is in coffee creamers that are labeled dairy and sugar-free, sweetened vegan plant-based milks that are marketed as healthy, along with so many processed vegan and non-vegan cereals, salsa, ketchup, granola bars, hot sauce, cookies, and even products that market themselves as natural, organic, and gluten-free.
Food companies know that sugar makes consumers want more and more of their products, so many companies that offer sound nutritional products otherwise will include sugar in some form in many of their products to lure consumers in on a repeated basis. Don’t let these “healthy” companies and promises on labels fool you.
Sugar is sugar is sugar is sugar – plain and simple. To get sugar out of your diet and heal more issues than you could imagine, here’s what you need to know and do to cut it out of your life and get a sweet fill in a much healthier way:
1. Eliminate All Added Sugars
This includes evaporated cane syrup (which is regular sugar that’s evaporated, not refined), coconut sugar (which is low-glycemic, but still a source of added sugars that can trigger addictions and cravings) syrups such as brown rice and maple, molasses, honey (which isn’t vegan anyway), agave, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, date sugar, coconut nectar, and all fruit juices (which are simple sugars that have no fiber like regular fruit). When buying plant-based milks, always buy unsweetened. Instead of cereals with added sugars (like most cold cereals), opt for plain oatmeal and cook it with some unsweetened applesauce to sweeten it naturally. Stevia is also excellent since it’s from an herb and naturally sugar-free. Learn about how to buy the healthiest stevia possible for some tips to avoid unnecessary additives.
2. Eat a Small Amount of Fresh Fruit When You Have a Craving
If you crave sugar, then eat it in the form of fresh fruit, but keep the portions small and try to choose berries, which have less sugar than other fruits. Choosing fresh fruit over dried is also best, because dried fruit doesn’t have any water to fill you up as quickly and is easy to overdo. Use dried fruits as a small topping to oatmeal or only for special occasions like raw desserts.
3. Go for Whole Foods
Whole foods are free of sugars and other unnecessary ingredients, which make them much better for your body. Seeds, legumes, leafy greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds are all lower on the glycemic index than most grains, beans, but no matter what, all whole foods are always better than processed foods. Try to have more vegetables to help your body quit cravings sweets, along with more greens, and plant-based proteins. When a sugar craving hits badly, have a small bowl of fruit instead of a sugary granola bar or box of cookies. For breakfast, a hot bowl of oatmeal or rice topped with some flax and fresh berries is much healthier than a processed bowl of dry cereal; it’s also likely to fill you up and satisfy you much more quickly.
I’ve found that if I eat sweet foods (even healthy ones), I crave more sweet foods. That being said, eating savory dishes in place of your regular sweet dishes can be a great way to naturally cut added sugars out of your diet and help prevent cravings at the same time. Opt for some hearty oatmeal risotto, have a Buddha bowl of steamed vegetables with rice or quinoa, a vegetable chili, a salad with hemp seeds and freshly chopped raw vegetables, or opt for some savory tofu stir-fry for lunch or dinner.
Salads are full of water, fiber, and naturally sweet vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, and greens such as romaine and spinach. Eating more salads can naturally help you eliminate sugars from your diet and are a great way to make you crave more healthy foods in place of sugary foods. Just leave out the processed dressings, which derail your attempts to avoid added sugar. Most salad dressings sold in stores have added sugars, so why not make your own instead? These yummy ingredients make the perfect sugar-free, vegan salad dressing and be sure to check out the 5 Step Guide to Making Vegan Super Salads if you’re tired of the usual chef salads you normally go for.
Not a fan or regular salads? Opt for a green smoothie instead; it’s basically a salad disguised and a great way to combat those cravings!
Seaweed sounds so gross, but it’s actually pretty healthy for you. It’s also extremely helpful in preventing sugar cravings due to its high chromium content. Chromium is a mineral that lowers the glycemic response and can help prevent sugar cravings in general. Try using some spirulina powder in your smoothie or opting for a nori roll in place of a tortilla wrap. Seaweed is also a potent source of iron and chlorophyll and can help detox the liver from toxins.
Even if you’re not gluten-intolerant, wheat actually has an incredibly high glycemic response and isn’t the most healthful source of grains for your diet. Instead of eating regular wheat bread (which might lead you to crave more sugar), opt for pumpernickel or rye, spelt, barley or sprouted grain bread instead (which is flour-free and low-glycemic). Grains such as millet, gluten-free oats, rice, and quinoa are also amazing grains to eat in place of wheat and they help keep you fuller longer.
Omega-3s are found plentiful in vegan foods such as: chia, flax, hemp, walnuts, and acai berries. Eating omega-3s through these foods is a great way to optimize your blood sugar, prevent cravings, and heal inflammation caused by refined sugars and animal foods in your diet. Omega-3s are also found in algae such as spirulina and blue green algae (which is actually where fish get their omegas to start with). Chia, flax, and hemp are also high in fiber, which can help keep you full and satisfied longer than sugary foods can.
Roasted veggies are sweet and decadent, all without an ounce of added sugar. They’re plentiful in fiber, water, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium, and natural sugars that release very slowly into the blood stream. The best part is, they’re incredibly sweet naturally, so you’ll feel like you’re eating something especially decadent. All vegetables help you crave less sugar, so be sure to eat a mix of green vegetables, along with roasted veggies to ensure you get plenty throughout the day. Try out these tips for roasting the perfect batch of veggies if you need a few ideas to get started.
These ideas aren’t an overnight cure, but they do work and work well at that. Still not convinced? These Dangers of Sugar might just change your mind if you’re still on the fence. I’ve been sugar-free for 10 years naturally and have never felt more healthy and free in my life.
Join me in this sweet revelation, won’t you?
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